Campus bar Threes Above High is set to reopen on May 21 after being closed to patrons due to COVID-19. Credit: André White | Arts & Life Producer

Campus bar Threes Above High speaks out against the ban on alcohol sales past 10 p.m. passed Friday. Credit: André White | Arts & Life Producer

A statewide ban on the sale of alcohol past 10 p.m. at bars and restaurants sparked immediate backlash from campus bar owners, who believe the new rule will devastate on-campus businesses. 

The ban was passed by the Ohio Liquor Control Commission Friday morning during an emergency meeting after Gov. Mike DeWine proposed the new rule in a Thursday press conference, saying that he believed the measure would help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Dan Starek, owner of Oldfield’s Short North Tavern and Leo’s on the Alley, said that the ban will greatly impact business for bars on campus.

“You will see many campus bars and Short North bars fail because of this order,” Starek said. “I would bet my life on it.”

Starek said that for many bars, 90 percent of their sales are made after 10 p.m. Scott Ellsworth, owner of Threes Above High and Fours On High, said that at least 80 percent of his business’s sales occur after 10 p.m.

Starek said that Leo’s on the Alley was supposed to open this Wednesday, but the order is making him reconsider if doing so is worth it. He also said the ban will affect bartenders, who may not have work lined up due to the financial impact the order has on the bars. 

“You had the hopes of all these new bartenders or all these old bartenders that we’re going to start again in the next few weeks, and now they are devastated once again by the government because they can’t work,” Starek said.

Ellsworth said that he believes the state is being “lazy” by enforcing rules on all bars even though many are complying with the social distancing guidelines laid out by the Ohio government.

“I feel like rather than go after the people who aren’t following the rules — the bars who aren’t following the rules — they’re throwing a blanket over our entire industry, rather than doing the work holding the people who are doing wrong accountable,” Ellsworth said.

Multiple local bar and restaurant owners have already fought a Monday decision by Columbus City Council to enforce a 10 p.m. closure for bars and restaurants in the city. After they filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, the owners were granted a temporary restraining order by a judge, putting the ordinance on hold. 

During his press conference, DeWine said that he was “mindful of the economic impact” that the order would have on businesses. He also said that most bar owners are doing a “phenomenal job” with following the safety measures required to keep their businesses open.

Starek said  he believes small business owners who are impacted by Friday’s order are prepared to fight back and that a plan for legal action against the emergency rule is underway. 

“As a small business owner, we’re used to the challenge, we want the challenge,” Starek said. “We’re up to fight any way we can.”